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Meeting international commitments to protect 17% of terrestrial ecosystems worldwide will require >3 million square kilometers of new protected areas and strategies to create those areas in a way that respects local communities and land use. In 2000–2016, biological and social scientists worked to increase the protected proportion of Peru’s largest department via 14 interdisciplinary inventories covering >9 million hectares of this megadiverse corner of the Amazon basin. In each landscape, the strategy was the same: convene diverse partners, identify biological and sociocultural assets, document residents’ use of natural resources, and tailor the findings to the needs of decision-makers. Nine of the 14 landscapes have since been protected (5.7 million hectares of new protected areas), contributing to a quadrupling of conservation coverage in Loreto (from 6 to 23%). We outline the methods and enabling conditions most crucial for successfully applying similar campaigns elsewhere on Earth.